Impacts of Climate Change in the Alps – measurements along altitudinal gradients


In the botanic garden Schachen (Garmisch-Partenkirchen) a phenological survey program for a long-term monitoring had been established by the Chair of Systemical Botany, Ludwig Maximilians Universität München, and the Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg. It is part of a new European network of botanic gardens researching on the climate change impact on vegetation life cycles in arctic-alpine regions. In the short vegetation period the phenological behavior of ten native plants is investigated and a new helpful survey key will be provided.


In addition phenological observations of montane tree species along altitudinal gradients have been taken by the Chair of Ecoclimatology, Technische Universität München and correlated to altitude and habitat characteristics. From the comparison of the observed vegetation period and the measured temperatures trends of shift in growth zones and tree lines have been derived. The results provide indications on potentially endangered species which have only slow reaction time or few retreat areas according to climate change.


The Biogeography Research Group at the Chair of Physical Geography and Quantitative Methods, Universität Augsburg surveyed the altitudinal dependence of vegetation and site classification in the subalpine to subnival level on the Zugspitzplatt (Mountain group Wetterstein). Based on the question of climate change and anthropo-zoogene impacts on the vegetation of the Zugspitzplatt the following applications and methods were performed:

  • Spatially inclusive and comprehensive plant sociological vegetation mapping
  • Comparisons with older surveys and orthophotos
  • Set up of permanent monitoring sites of the vegetation dynamic
  • First classification of the sites (topoclimatology, pedology)
  • Identification of disturbances on the vegetation on the Zugspitzplatts.


Another subproject of the TU München, Professur für Ökoklimatologe investigated biogenic and anthropogenic sources of volatile organic compounds (non-methane hydrocarbons; NMHCs) that are important climate relevant ozone precursors, and their distribution under the influence of different meteorological conditions along altitudinal gradients in the Alps. The exact composition of these NMHCs provides important information on biogenic and anthropogenic emissions for the production of ozone, aerosols, and other photochemically formed compounds. It is important to understand the processes of formation and transport of those compounds in meteorologically and topographically complex systems. Most studies so far concentrated on metropolitan areas or airborne measurements in the free atmosphere. The behavior of NMHCs under different meteorological conditions along altitudinal gradients of 2000 m is still quite unknown. Impacts of long range transport and the tropospherical background have been analyzed on the Umweltforschungsstation Schneefernerhaus (UFS) as well as local biogenic and anthropogenic emission processes. In addition with other permanently measured trace gases and aerosols an apportionment and quantification of source contributions can be estimated. This can provide important information on discriminating air masses originating from the atmospheric boundary layer, the injection layer, and the free troposphere.

KLIMAGRAD was supported by the Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz. 

Contact person:

Prof. Dr. Annette Menzel, Prof. Dr. Michael Leuchner


2009 - 2013




Breier, M. (2011) Erstellung einer phänologischen Beobachtungsanleitung für ausgewählte Gebirgspflanzen. Diplomarbeit, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. 105 p.


Friedmann, A. & Korch, O. (2010) Die Vegetation des Zugspitzplatts (Wettersteingebirge, Bayerische Alpen): Aktueller Zustand und Dynamik. Ber. d. Reinh.-Tüxen-Ges. 22, 114-128.


Friedmann, A. & Korch, O. (2010) Ecological analysis of the subalpine to subnival vegetation belts on the Zugspitzplatt (Wetterstein Mountains, Bavaria). UFS – Scientific Results 2009/2010, 21-22.


Gröger, A. & Menzel, A. (2010) Detection of climate change impacts in alpine and arctic botanic gardens: a phenology program. Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference of Alpine an Arctic Botanical Gardens (A. Gröger, ed.), München, 47-50.


Kirchner, M., Fegg, W., Römmelt, H., Leuchner, M., Ries, L., Zimmermann, R., Michalke, B., Wallasch, M., J Maguhn, J., Faus-Kessler, Th., Jakobi, G. (2014) Nitrogen deposition along differently exposed slopes in the Bavarian Alps. Science of the Total Environment 470–471, 895–906


Korch, O. & Friedmann, A. (2012) Aktueller Stand und Ergebnisse der vegetationskundlichen Untersuchungen auf dem Zugspitzplatt. UFS - Wissenschaftliche Resultate 2011/12, 11-12.


Korch, O. & Friedmann, A. (2012) Phytodiversität und Dynamik der Flora und Vegetation des Zugspitzplatts. Jahrbuch des Vereins zum Schutz der Bergwelt 2011/12, 217-234.


Korch, O. (2014) Untersuchungen zu Flora und Vegetation des Zugspitzplatts (Wettersteingebirge, Bayerische Alpen) - Rezente Vegetationsdynamik unter besonderer Berücksichtigung klimatischer und anthropo-zoogener Prozesse. Dissertation, Universität Augsburg. 205 S.


Korch, O., Friedmann, A., Grashey-Jansen, S. & Seipp, C. (2013) Vegetation und Böden oberhalb der Waldgrenze des Zugspitzplatts. Allgemeine Forstzeitschrift für Waldwirtschaft und Umweltvorsorge, 3: 36-38.


Leuchner M., Jakobi G., Kirchner M. (2010) Stickstoffeinträge und VOCs entlang von Höhengradienten. UFS – Scientific Results 2009/2010, 55-56.


Panchen, Z.A., Primack, R., Nordt, B., Ellwood, E.R., Stevens, A-D., Renner, S.S., Willis, C.G., Fahey, R., Whittemore, A., Du, Y., and C.C. Davis (2014) Leaf-out times in temperate woody plants are related to phylogeny, deciduousness, growth habit and wood anatomy. New Phytologist (18 June) DOI: 10.1111/nph.12892.


Schunk C, Wastl C, Leuchner M, Schuster C, Menzel A. (2013) Forest fire danger rating in complex topography – results from a case study in the Bavarian Alps in autumn 2011. NHESS Natural Hazards and Earth System Science 13, 2157–2167, doi: 10.5194/nhess-13-2157-2013.


Schuster C (2013) Studies on Phenology and Intra-annual Tree Ring Growth along Altitudinal Gradients in the Werdenfelser Region. Dissertation an der Fakultät Wissenschaftszentrum Weihenstephan für Ernährung, Landnutzung und Umwelt der Technischen Universität München, 149 S.


Schuster C, Estrella N, Menzel A. (2014) Shifting and extension of phenological periods with increasing temperature along altitudinal transects in southern Bavaria. Plant Biology 16: 332-344, doi:10.1111/plb.12071.


Schuster C, Gröger A, Breier M, Menzel A. (2010) KLIMAGRAD - Phänologische und vegetationskundliche Untersuchungen in der montanen und subalpinen Stufe im Wetterstein und am Schachen. UFS - Scientific Results (2009/2010)


Schuster C., Kirchner M., Jakobi G., Menzel A. (2014) Frequency of inversions affects senescence phenology of Acer. pseudoplatanus and Fagus sylvatica. International Journal of Biometeorology 58: 485-498. doi: 10.1007/s00484-013-0709-0


Schuster C, Menzel A. (2012) Temperature sensitivity of mountain forest tree species observed by phenology and intra-annual stem growth at altitudinal gradients in the area around Zugspitze. UFS - Scientific Results (2011/2012), 19-20.


Zohner, C. M., and S. S. Renner. (2014) Common garden comparison of the leaf-out phenology of woody species from different native climates, combined with herbarium records forecasts long-term change. Ecology Letters 17(8), 1016-1025